TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Tyler Udland was a three-time All-Ivy cross country performer at Princeton before enrolling as a Florida State graduate student, where he is completing his final fall season of eligibility. Jack Goodwin is a transfer from the University of Bedfordshire in the UK, who has represented Great Britain internationally both as a junior and senior athlete.
They are among nine Seminoles who will be competing in Atlantic Coast Conference Championships for the first time Friday morning at the Panorama Farms course in Earlysville, Va.
Despite its lack of experience – at least in garnet & gold – coach Bob Braman’s Florida State men are ranked 15th nationally heading into championship season, where they hope to reverse the fortunes of a year ago when they finished seventh at the conference meet and failed to advance to the NCAA Championships for the first time in 11 years.
“It is exciting,” said Udland, who has the rare opportunity to earn NCAA Division I All-Conference honors from two separate leagues. “It is a different conference, but it’s still a conference meet and no matter what conference you’re it has a certain intensity to it and you get pumped up for it. It would be pretty cool to say I was All-Ivy and All-ACC.”
Thanks to the talents of newcomers Udland and Goodwin, redshirt junior Glen Yarham and junior Zak Seddon – the lone Seminole with ACC Championship experience – Florida State is expected to be in the mix among top teams.
A challenging 8,000-meter course over rolling terrain, coupled with strong competition from No. 3 Syracuse, No. 12 Virginia and talented North Carolina, stand as obstacles for Braman’s squad, which has rebuilt quickly all the while maintaining an eye on the end of the season.
The Seminoles arrive in at the championship meet virtually assured of a spot in the NCAA Championship meet, after tying for ninth at the Wisconsin Invitational two weeks ago, where they scored wins over nine nationally ranked teams and tied another (Michigan). The emergence of another FSU newcomer, redshirt sophomore Stanley Linton, at the No. 5 spot enabled the Seminoles to place all five scoring runners within a 35-second span.
“Coming in we knew we could have a really tight 1-4 spread,” said Udland. “We had four really experienced guys coming back. Stan has done a real good job of keeping the 1-5 spread tight. You score five, not four, so that’s been huge.”
It hasn’t hurt that the Noles have shared the wealth at the top of the lineup, either, with Udland and Yarham each finishing in the top spot for FSU in two races this season. Goodwin, whose season got off to a slow start, was the overall leader at Wisconsin midway through the race and chased Udland and Yarham across the finish line.
Maintaining that tight pack will go a long way toward the Seminoles realizing their full potential, both Friday and down the road at the NCAA South Region and NCAA Championship meets.
“If we work together we would feel like it’s a training session,” said Goodwin. “We’d be tight-knit and able to find each other because it’s a smaller pack…It should be interesting. You’ve still got to focus on yourself and run your own race.
“If we work together and stick to the plan, hopefully we’ll execute it well.”
Goodwin, who will be competing in just his third race with the Seminoles, has embraced the team concept at the NCAA level, which is a bit different from what he was accustomed to back in the UK where he competed primarily with his Bedford club.
“It’s kind of perceived in the UK that you run as hard as you can so the team can do as well as it can,” Goodwin explained. “It’s kind of the same here…I really like it. You feel like you’re running for a reason. When you get into races and you’re not having a good day – you’re really struggling – you know that you want to keep it strong for the guys. If you’re running for yourself, then it’s easier to say, ‘OK, I can give in,’ rather than you know you’re running for the guys and you want to make every place count.”
With Yarham battling a leg injury and Linton coming off an extended bout with the flu, the Seminoles could use some help from the rest of the pack. Graduate student transfer Antony Taylor, a two-time All-A10 performer at UMass, could be a key for the Noles. So could redshirt sophomore Otniel Teixeira, an NCAA Championship qualifier in the 800 on the track since transferring from USF, who has performed admirably in his first collegiate cross country season.
Rounding out the FSU lineup are sophomore Grant Nykaza and freshmen Bryce Kelley and Michael Hall.
Historically, ACC title contenders have had runners provide unexpected lifts with a conference championship on the line.
“I think with any conference meet, with a smaller field, you’ve just got to try to get up to the front of the race and hang tough,” Udland said. “That’s kind of what we did at Wisco [Wisconsin] a little bit. You’ve just got to be tough in a conference meet. Everyone is running hard at the start of championship season. With a field that deep, you’ve just got to be tough. Any little lapse and you’re going to lose places.”
Up to this point, Braman’s focus has been preparing the Seminoles for the shift from 8,000 meters to 10,000 meters, which will come in two weeks at the South Region meet. High mileage, complemented by recent long weekend runs over hilly North Florida back roads, should have the Noles ready for a solid showing at the rugged Panorama Farms course.
Count Goodwin among those who welcomes the challenge of a testy course.
“I think it will suit me because the courses in the UK are real tough,” Goodwin said. “I like tough courses. It’s more of a mental battle…Sometimes you get to these real hard races and if someone is not feeling as good as you can, you can beat people you shouldn’t necessarily beat. I think the course will really suit our team well. Stan is a really strong lad. Glen and Tyler are both really high-mileage guys and it’s all about retaining your pace over the hills and keeping your leg speed up.”
Collectively, the Noles are anxious to get the championship season started, while clearly focusing on the long haul.
“Obviously conference is a big meet – it’s really important – but we’re kind of putting our focus for NCAAs,” Udland said. “In the past [at Princeton], it was conference, then NCAAs. I think the plan we have here is really going to allow us to do well over 10k and at the end of the season.”